An Introduction to Austin

Hello from Texas! Things have been busy and adventurous lately! I was happy to start my internship early at the Long Center for Performing Arts, and have been driving around the city attempting to free myself from my oh-so-lovely-crutch: my GPS. To start my internship series, I thought it would be most helpful to open with an introduction to Austin for my classmates in Boston!

I wish I could say that because I was born and raised in Texas that I know everything about Austin, but that would be a lie. Texas is a huge state.  I completed my undergraduate study at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, a mere 30 miles north of Austin; however, aside from taking advantage of student-rush tickets or sneaking into the University of Texas Music Library, my knowledge of Austin and its cultural institutions is seriously lacking.

Jerry Hayes, Champion Printing
Austin, “The Live Music Capital of the World,” is the capital of Texas, and the fourth largest city in the state. Austin has a population of just over 790,000 (2010 U.S. Census), which is just a bit larger than Boston proper’s population.  Politically, Austin is known for its liberal persuasion in the center of a widely conservative state. Austin and its surrounding cities are home to the headquarters of Whole Foods, Freescale Semiconductor, Forestar Group, and Dell.  

The University of Texas flagship is also located in Austin.  UT is huge. It has over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 16,500 faculty members, and prides itself in holding the largest enrollment of all colleges in Texas. Upon a recent visit I learned that each department within the UT system actually has its own development department, and really acts like its own institution. The Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art is the University’s cutting edge art museum. The Harry Ransom Center is the University’s very impressive library and archive, which houses a Gutenberg Bible among other interesting possessions.

To get a better idea of what Austin has to offer I was able to sit down with Karen Jantsch, Programming Manager at the Long Center, and Arts Administration graduate from University of New Orleans. Karen has only been in the Austin area for four years, but given her position at the Long Center and background in the arts, she has a unique perspective on Austin’s art world.

Karen started our conversation by describing Austin’s art world as diverse.  Austin’s art world, similar to many in the country, is experiencing a bit of a transition. Many of the city’s organizations like the Austin Museum of Art or the Austin Lyric Opera have experienced leadership changes. The Long Center, Austin Symphony, Austin Lyric Opera, Ballet Austin, Austin Museum of Art, and Art House were named among the most established or growing arts organizations in the city. In addition to these the University of Texas Blanton Museum of Art and Performing Arts Center were described as a vital part of the city.

Austin’s iconic collaborative spirit seems to permeate the art world, as organizations in the city have a lot of board crossover. In the last few years Austin has seen exceptional population growth, as the city has remained resilient through the great economic crises of the last few years. In addition to this, the city has seen the landscape for entertainment venues grow as well. Moody Theater, Bass Hall, Paramount Theatre, Austin Music Hall, Long Center, and Cedar Park Center are just some of the many options for performers who come to the city.

While much of Austin is still a bit of a mystery to me as a newcomer, I will say that the people and culture of the city is inviting. The citizens of Austin are (insert antonym for xenophobic). I am excited and inspired, and look forward to sharing more of my journey along the way!

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